Around a couple of months after ruling out closure of Juhu airport’s secondary runway citing safety concerns raised by helicopter operators, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) now wants to use it as a taxiway.
AAI officials made this point at a routine meeting conducted by the civil aviation ministry on helicopter operations on Friday.
Sources said the public sector company could have revised its decision under pressure from developers whose projects in the prime neighbourhood are threatened if the airstrip is open for use.
“On January 9, the AAI chairman had told helicopter companies that operations on the secondary runway would continue after it was proven that the main runway alone was not safe for operations,” said an AAI official. “Despite repeated reminders, the AAI did not issue the minutes of that meeting. Now, it seems they have gone back on their word,” said a senior official with a private helicopter company.
Ruling out the airstrip’s closure had brought the AAI under pressure from the builders’ lobby as height clearances were given away to 150 structures in the vicinity. Civil aviation rules say buildings close to the airport cannot be higher than 45 metres as they could block the take-off and approach paths of pilots.
“There have been a series of flip-flops from the time the AAI told us the runway will be operational. They refused to issue the minutes of the meeting and now want to build a tower close to the airstrip,” said another official from a private helicopter company.